James O'Brien

Video: Ovechkin foils Lundqvist, spoils Rangers’ strong start

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The New York Rangers looked great during much of the first period of Game 1, but Alex Ovechkin’s one of those rare snipers who can change things with the flick of a wrist.

New York managed a 12-7 shot advantage in the opening frame, yet Ovechkin’s attempt was the only one to hit a net, giving the Washington Capitals an early 1-0 lead. Should Henrik Lundqvist have stopped this laser?

(Easier said than done, obviously.)

Red Wings GM states the obvious: They want Babcock back

Mike Babcock
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Get this: the Detroit Red Wings want to keep Mike Babcock.

That seems like an obvious thought, although in the world of sports management, you never really know. Red Wings GM Ken Holland stated his franchise’s desire to keep their storied, scowling coach in the fold, as MLive.com reports.

“He’s regarded in the industry as one of the top coaches in the game, if not the top coach,” Holland said. “He’s in the prime of his career. Our hope is that Mike wants to stay, but he’s positioned himself to have the option to explore.”

Maybe most interestingly, the long-tenured general manager gave a window in which he’d like to retain the long-tenured coach. Holland said he’d like to at least get something done “in the month of May.”

Really, that gives Babcock plenty of time to survey the many openings (and likely some lofty offers) and choose the location that fits his needs best. It’s reasonable to think that Detroit might end up being his choice, even if there’s the impression he might be leaning toward something different.

In the meantime, observe these photos of Babcock first becoming the Red Wings’ coach many moons ago.

Detroit Red Wings Announce New Coach
Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images
Detroit Red Wings Announce New Coach
Getty Images

Kinda weird, right?

2015 Masterton Trophy finalists: Dubnyk, Hammond, Letang

Andrew Hammond
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The Professional Hockey Writers Association named the three finalists for the 2015 Bill Masterton Trophy on Thursday: Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, Ottawa Senators netminder Andrew Hammond and Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang.

The award goes to the player who “best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” It’s tough to think of three better nominees for the 2014-15 season.

Dubnyk, 28, went from a ruinous season in 2013-14 (being cast off by the Edmonton Oilers and eventually finding himself in career limbo) to a Vezina Trophy finalist this season. You can read more about his journey here.

Hammond, 27, came into the season as an unknown. He was an undrafted free agent with little on his resume, only to lead the Senators to one of the most unlikely playoff bids in recent memory (if ever). He also earned a lifetime supply of free McDonald’s, so he’s not without awards already. (Though he’d probably take a new contract over unlimited McGriddles.) The Senators have more on “The Hamburgler” here.

Letang, 28, overcame the greatest odds physically. He suffered a frightening stroke last season – and has dealt with plenty of more traditional injuries over the years, including unfortunate concussion issues – only to post possibly the best season of his NHL career in 2014-15. Check out more from the Penguins, including some heartfelt quotes from the Penguins.

All three players present inspirational stories, but only one will bring home the Masterton this year.

WATCH LIVE: Tonight’s Stanley Cup Playoff action

Tanner Glass, Tim Gleason
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The second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs begins in earnest on Thursday, with one very familiar matchup and one being quite fresh.

First off, we have Game 1 of the Washington Capitals – New York Rangers series, which is taking place at Madison Square Garden. While these teams facing off almost feels like a rite of spring (or summer?), it could have a different feel with two new bench bosses. You can watch on NBCSN and stream via NBC Sports Live Extra.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Next, we have just the second-ever playoff meeting between the Anaheim Ducks and the Calgary Flames (Anaheim prevailed in seven games back in 2005-06). Game 1 is in Anaheim. NBCSN also covers this one, while you can watch online via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Auston Matthews, 17, makes some history with USA Hockey

Pavel Zacha, Auston Matthews
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By playing in an exhibition game for Team USA against Austria at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, Auston Matthews made a small chunk of history. He’s the first player to get a look at that level before even being draft-eligible, as SI.com’s Alan Muir notes.

The 17-year-old managed to score in the 4-1 U.S. win against Austria, according to Team USA’s rundown. That same summary notes that Matthews is headed home from the tournament, so perhaps it was just a tantalizing glimpse into the future.

Muir does a great job summarizing Matthews’ recent accomplishments, which might be delightful fodder for those who are already wondering if their team needs to tank in 2015-16 (those people are probably out there, after all):

No matter how he fares, it’ll be another entry in one of the most impressive résumés ever written for an American-born prospect. Playing as a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program this season, the 6′ 2″, 194-pound Matthews broke Patrick Kane’s single-season scoring record with 55 goals and 116 points in just 60 games. He also stood out as a double-underager with the Americans at the 2015 World Juniors, tallying three points in five contests.

(Obviously he did OK, even if he’s headed home.)

The question, really, becomes how do you find a rhyme scheme to promote tanking for Matthews? Pile on for Auston, maybe?